America Supports You: Pro Wrestlers 'Slam' Troops With Support
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2005 The stars of World Wrestling Entertainment showed their support for the troops during an event at the MCI Center arena here Aug. 21.
Army Spc. William Cable, with the Pennsylvania National Guard, poses for photos with World Wrestling Entertainment's The Hurricane. Cable was attending a reception for troops from Walter Reed Army Medical Center before the WWE's SummerSlam event at the MCI Center in downtown Washington, Aug. 21. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Kristin Fitzsimmons, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The United Service Organizations arranged to have 33 injured troops from Walter Reed Army Medical Center as guests of honor at the WWE's SummerSlam pay-per-view event.
The troops got a chance to hobnob with WWE personalities at a reception while some WWE stars and "divas" recorded messages of support for the troops backstage.
Several troops said they were pleased that WWE would show their support in this manner.
"Big wrestling fan, I love it. The USO went beyond expectations," Army Pfc. Donald Urbany, who was injured in Baghdad, said during the reception. "They're the stars for me." Rosey, half of WWE championship tag team The Hurricane and Rosey, returned the accolades, saying the troops are the real heroes.
"When I found out I was gonna do this two weeks ago, I was tickled pink," Rosey said about meeting with the troops. "These are the boys that go out there and put their lives on the line for us. I'm very proud."
After the reception the troops from Walter Reed were escorted to VIP seats on the arena's floor, surrounding the wrestling ring.
SummerSlam officially began with the presentation of the colors by a Navy color guard from the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center here. WWE diva Lilian Garcia sang the national anthem to kick off the wrestling action and flashy production.
WWE has shown its support for the troops in many ways in the past four years, said Gary Davis, WWE vice president of corporate communications. He said that since Sept. 11, 2001, the organization has rededicated its support of the troops that began during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The organization has stepped up visits to the troops, including those at Walter Reed and at the National Naval Medical Center, in nearby Bethesda, Md. They also participate in the USO's Operation Care Package program and provide event tickets through the organization. This is in addition to traveling overseas and performing for the troops.
After 9/11, USO's Washington chapter contacted WWE, Davis said, and requested free viewing of a pay-per-view event at Fort Myer, Va., which is located a few miles from the Pentagon. The relationship has grown through WWE's regular offerings of free programming every month.
"It's been a tremendous experience for us and anything we can do for the troops, we do," he said. "If WWE and our superstars can take just a moment to show the troops that Americans support them ... hopefully they see it's not just this WWE superstar, this individual, but that this individual represents the majority of Americans who really appreciate what the troops are doing."
The wrestlers get a lot out of visits wounded troops, Davis said. Those scheduled meetings occur at least monthly, he noted. The WWE stars also often get the chance to visit with the troops in airports and other public arenas.
Linda McMahon, WWE chief executive officer, said these interactions are important because they show her organization supports the troops.
"Our troops are there because they're fighting our battles for us. They go. They risk they're lives. They put everything they've got on the line," she said. "I think whatever your politics are, you really need to be supportive of these young men and women who are out there ... putting their lives on the line for our freedom, for our benefit, for our privileges that we can have here. The very least we can do is be supportive of that effort."